Prithwiraj Choudhury

Assistant Professor of Business Administration


Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury is an assistant professor of business administration in the Technology and Operations Management Unit. He joined the HBS faculty after three years as an assistant professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In his research, Professor Choudhury focuses on innovation in emerging markets. His two major areas of inquiry concern the management of human capital within innovative firms and the interactions between multinational firms and local entities in emerging markets. He was awarded the Haynes Prize by the Academy of International Business and recognized as the most promising scholar under the age of 40 in the field of international business. Professor Choudhury earned his DBA at HBS, receiving the Wyss Doctoral Research Award. He also holds degrees from the Indian Institute of Management and the Indian Institute of Technology. Before pursuing his doctorate, he worked at McKinsey & Company, IBM, and Microsoft Corporation.

  1. Overview

    Professor Choudhury’s research is focused on innovation in the context of emerging markets and has two broad themes. The first, managing human capital within innovative firms, examines individual engineers, scientists, and R&D employees working in various emerging market R&D organizations (multinational R&D centers, domestic firms, and state-owned R&D labs). Using personnel data from global entities and natural experiments within firms, Professor Choudhury studies how return migration, within-country migration, intrafirm mobility, and leadership change affect innovation outcomes and the productivity of individuals. The second theme, interactions between multinational firms and local entities in emerging markets, offers a view of how the relationship between multinational firms and their host countries in emerging markets can evolve dynamically over time when the host country changes its policies to be either more or less welcoming. Different corporate strategies, particularly regarding local responsiveness, lead to different “dynamic trajectories.” Professor Choudhury has also developed a “core-periphery” perspective on the way multinational firms interact with state and civil society actors in these markets. Engaging peripheral actors can lead to positive or negative influence with the state actors at the core, and may be particularly relevant in settings where institutional frameworks are still emerging.
  2. Return Migration and Replicating Innovation Capabilities in Multinationals: Results from an Intrafirm Quasi-Natural Experiment

    Using theoretical arguments on grafting capabilities and mentoring, I argue that the transfer of personnel across locations helps multinational firms replicate sticky capabilities related to patenting. I test this using unique personnel data for 1,315 inventors at a Fortune 50 multinational R&D center in India. I find that return migrants have both a direct effect on subsidiary patenting and an indirect effect through their direct reports. I exploit a preexisting natural experiment based on rigid HR rules where the assignment of managers for fresh college graduates is uncorrelated to observable characteristics of the direct reports.

  3. Do Leaders Matter? Evidence from Natural Experiment at Indian State Owned Laboratories

    Our study is one of the first natural experiments around the role of leaders in the context of firms. Also while prior natural experiments around leadership in the policy world have exploited the death of the leader, we exploit an alternate exogenous shock – rigid bureaucratic rules that constraint the appointment of leaders to 42 Indian public R&D labs with 12,500 employees. The bureaucratic rules ensure that the timing of leadership change is uncorrelated with observable or unobservable firm level characteristics. This enables us to circumvent the issues related to the use of manager fixed effects in the prior empirical literature. Efforts to incentivize individual employees to file and license patents did not meet with immediate success. However patenting and licensing both increased once leaders at individual labs were replaced.

  4. Multinational Firms and Innovation in India, 1970-2013

    Over the past several decades, a rich literature has emerged on multinational (MNC) firms and their relationship with host countries. On one hand, there are models such as the sovereignty at bay model (Vernon, 1971) and the neoclassical welfare economics based bargaining model (Caves, 1996) that describe a conflictual relationship between the host country and the MNC firm. On the other hand, there are models that outline cooperation and dependency between the host country and the multinational firm (Bamet and Muller, 1974). Missing from this literature is a historical analysis of how this relationship between multinational firms and the host country can evolve when the host country moves from a policy regime that is unwelcoming to MNCs to a policy regime that is more welcoming of MNCs. For instance, it is not clear ex ante, whether such a policy switch would lead to MNCs across the board to invest in host country initiatives such as investing in R&D. India, which experienced two exogenous policy shocks, shutting down to MNCs in 1977 prior to opening up in 1991 offers the perfect laboratory to conduct such historical analysis.

  5. Firms as Catalyst of Within Country Migration: Evidence from a Randomized Intra-firm Experiment in India

    In the face of rapid growth in many emerging markets, technology firms face severe labor shortages.  Yet there is often simultaneously a large under-utilized base of talent, disenfranchised from the mainstream for physical, social or informational reasons.  We study the effort of one major information technology multinational, “INDTECH”, with its production centers in India, to bridge the barriers that normally prevent hiring from remote areas and from disadvantaged social groups. We also exploit the pre-existence of a talent allocation protocol at INDTECH. The firm randomizes entering talent across the available projects in the 10 development centers it runs across India, so as to ensure that none of its typically large global clients complains about not having access to INDTECHs best software engineers. This randomization helps us evade econometric problems that plague studies that measure employee productivity within firms and helps us control for endogeneity concerns. Using hand collected data on personnel records and migration patterns for entry level employees recruited by INDTECH in 2007 from over 250 educational institutions all across India, we find that employees from remote locations outperform talent sourced from mainstream locations provided the distance of migration is less than 500 miles. Further, the non-mainstream talent appears disproportionately to use the firm as a platform for further advanced education.   Also, talent from underrepresented social strata outperforms that hired from mainstream social communities. However INDTECH does not help bridge the gender barrier, that is, women hires are not likely to perform better than their male counterparts.

  6. Codifying Prior Art for Patent System Reform: The Case of Chinese and Indian Herbal Patents

    In this paper we use novel data of Chinese and Indian herbal patents and exploit the staggered introduction on the U.S. patent office (USPTO) and the European patent office (EPO) of a new CD codifying prior art, to study how ex ante information provision affects patent filing behavior. Herbal patent filing by western entities peaked in the 1990s. Several of these herbal patents were later invalidated in courts based on evidence of prior-art existing in Chinese and Indian traditional medicinal texts. We study the effect of codifying and digitizing thousands of years of traditional medicine text and making patent examiners in the USPTO and EPO systematically aware of such prior art. We find that this has an effect on both the trend of herbal patent filing and the type of herbal patents being filed. In other words, codifying prior art affects patent filing behavior and has a social welfare implication by avoiding costly litigation.

  7. A ‘Core-periphery’ Framework to Navigate Emerging Market Governments – Qualitative Evidence from a Biotechnology Multinational

    We build on the emerging literature of influence based models to study how multinational firms can navigate host governments. Our ‘core-periphery’ framework posits that the actions that an MNC takes with actors in what we call the ‘periphery’ – comprised of state, quasi-state and civil society actors, can lead to positive or negative influence with interconnected state actors in a ‘core’. There are two mechanisms by which this can happen - engaging the periphery may either change the information set of the core or help align incentives of multiple core actors. Engaging the periphery might be particularly relevant in settings where the institutional framework is still emerging. We build a case study of a multinational firm in the biotechnology sector to illustrate how the core-periphery framework works in multiple emerging markets across institutional differences. The analysis is based on 32 interviews conducted with the CEO and other executives of Genzyme at the corporate headquarters in Cambridge MA and in the following subsidiaries – Brazil, China, Costa Rica, France, India and the United States.